Universities Have Been Forgotten – Conservative Article
With September inching ever closer, the challenge of getting pupils back to school is increasingly present. It has gotten a lot of attention, with Johnson even writing about it in the Daily Mail. This attention is justified, getting schools back right is important. But measures that universities are taking are not getting enough spotlight. I believe that university students will be the cause of a second lockdown, not schoolchildren.
Universities start just after schools, with first years starting in late September and other students returning later. Students will be moving into their new accommodation just before this to have a chance to meet some of their new flatmates. But due to COVID-19, this experience will be different.
First-year students will face a number of changes when they start. For example, they will be placed in a bubble of six to thirteen students and mixing bubbles is discouraged. Students could face sanctions if these rules are breached. Online teaching will be the norm and there will be less in-person teaching.
The University of Nottingham will be adopting a system where students will live with a small group of their course mates. This will be emulated throughout the university and no doubt in other universities as suggested by Universities UK.
However, there are several flaws with the bubble model.
Firstly, it only applies to student accommodation. It won’t apply to anyone living in private accommodation, which is the majority of second- and third-year students. To me, this is a massive oversight. Surely you have to keep all students safe, not just those living on campus. While the campus buildings are being made COVID secure, many students will no longer be using them regularly. Outside student accommodation students can easily meet up with those outside their bubble. This will lead to asymptomatic super spreaders, leading to the entire bubble being isolated.
Secondly, it will be an administrative nightmare to organise. Since the triple lock approach was announced, universities have warned that they will struggle to allocate accommodation because they won’t have their entire student cohort ready. With the chaos surrounding A-levels, students dropping out, coming back, etc, universities will have less time to allocate spaces. Most university halls open booking in February so will possibly have to reorganise students. Universities are struggling with oversubscribed courses, and no doubt this will have a knock-on effect on accommodation.
Thirdly, university accommodation often costs different amounts. For example, at Nottingham Trent Sandby Hall costs £136.36 per week whereas Byron costs £164.71 per week. Trying to allocate accommodation to students whilst charging different prices will no doubt lead to some students paying more than they can afford. Charging the same for accommodation would also be unfair as Byron is of higher quality than Sandby. This will be similar across universities.
Another general worry that is being ignored is people moving about the country and moving in with people from different areas. This will no doubt it will lead to a rise in cases. Students will likely go to bars and hold house parties in place of nightclubs. The majority of children in schools don’t go out as much. Teachers in schools have greater control of children as well, whereas university students are left to their own devices. These are problems that schools do not have, yet I have not seen them been discussed nearly as much.
This is coupled with the fact we are moving into flu season. A number of students will also get freshers flu, and both have overlapping symptoms with COVID. This means testing has to be robust around universities to make sure there are not lockdown scares when the person actually has flu.
The way universities are planning to get students back needs more scrutiny. As it stands, I believe the move back to university will cause a second wave and lockdown more likely than schools. I am not calling for students to be nannied about campus and full draconian measures on what they can do, but right now the information is less than desirable. None of these measures seem like they can be properly enforced, especially if they don’t apply to all students. They all seem like guidelines, and I feel that they won’t be followed.
Written by Junior Conservative Writer, Kieran Burt
Point of Information
The current measures will only double up the stress among students – A Labour Response
After a long long break, the reopening of universities is, of course, a big relief for students. However, the approach to keep a balance between staying safe and quality of education is not so convincing.
As Kieran discusses, the bubble approach is too weak to control social distancing. Let alone the issue of boredom from social distancing and staying trapped in houses for so many months. We just can’t keep people from being on campuses or sharing accommodation and expect them not to interact at all. Such measures are just going to double up the stress among students.
As far as online classes are concerned, students have already experienced how difficult it becomes to attend online lectures. Moreover, it still does not compensate for the one on one classes. The interruption of internet connectivity is just one of the obstacles. Additionally, the understanding you gain while learning in-class can not be compared with online classes.
Public places are open regardless and we inevitably interact with tens of people every day by carrying out daily activities, be it grocery shopping, eating out, or just grabbing a meal from a takeaway. So asking students to keep themselves limited to just a certain group is not a practical approach at all.
However, balancing health and safety with a quality of education is not as difficult as universities are making out. Just like we are carrying out our everyday activities, we can also carry on with normal classes. University students are mature enough to understand the importance of keeping a safe distance, as well as wearing a face covering and washing or sanitizing hands properly. Besides, face masks are the new fashion and, like any other accessory, young girls and boys have easily adapted to it.
People are carrying out their normal tasks, all while keeping social distancing in mind. The universities should not make learning such a difficulty for students. An easy and practical way to keep everyone safe and maintain the quality of education would be to keep hand sanitizers in all classrooms and in every other area of universities. Students must wear a face mask and sanitize their hands when entering and leaving the classrooms. Cafeterias and other common areas should either be closed or limited to a reduced number of students at a time.
Emergency medical teams and regular temperature checking points should be available on campuses as well. University buses must be sanitized regularly with hand sanitizers being available on the buses too.
All this care would be better at reducing the risk of spreading the virus, instead of the poor approach of keeping students in a bubble. This approach will eventually fail given humans can’t be kept from interacting.
Written by Guest Labour Writer, Shamamah Dogar
The flaws in Universities will be shown this year! – A Liberal response
This year has been anything but normal, and with students returning to University, I share Kieran’s worry. He has written a really strong article that highlights a number of problems. However, I want to raise another concern of mine.
Maybe this applies more to the University of Exeter (my university), but I have no faith in them organising the chaotic return to University. One thing that comes to mind is helping students with mental health. Just ask anyone who has dealt with Exeter’s Wellbeing service and they will note the failure of the University across the board. Replies are slow, most numbers lead to deadlines, and this is not just the Wellbeing, this is most institutions at the university.
So, the thing I think Kieran has failed to mention is how will universities deal with the massive increase in new mental health cases?
Also, how will they be able to integrate new students into university life is another concern? Most University sports teams have been cut drastically. While it is not only essential for fitness, it’s a great avenue for making friends and getting out of their flat in what can be a tough few weeks for those who have never left home before.
I am concerned not enough thought has been put to actually helping students and offering support. I really hope to be proven wrong, but I think ‘chaos’ is exactly what is about to happen.
Written by Senior Liberal Writer, Max Anderson